The following is taken from PressTV:
Wed, 18 Feb 2009 15:30:59 GMT
The CIA has been secretly using airbases inside Pakistan to launch strikes on targets on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was covertly using the Shamsi airfield in Pakistan’s restive south-western province of Balochistan, The Times Online reported.
The base is located about 50 km (30 miles) from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and allows the US forces to launch a drone ‘within minutes’ of receiving actionable intelligence.
The Predator drone has a range of more than 2,000 miles and can fly for 29 hours reaching militants in Balochistan, southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas, the paper says.
The chief military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said that US forces were using Shamsi “only for logistics.”
“The Americans were also using another airbase near Jacobabad, 300 miles north-east of Karachi, for logistics and military operations,” the report quoted Abbas as saying.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad denied commenting on CIA operations inside Pakistan.
However, one senior Western source familiar with US operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan said that the CIA “runs Predator flights routinely” from Shamsi.
The recent delivery of unexplained 730,000 gallons of F34 aviation fuel to Shamsi base supports the claim.
Pakistan reportedly had allowed the US to use Shamsi, Jacobabad, and two other bases – Pasni and Dalbadin – for the invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime in October 2001.
In July 2006, the then military government announced that the US was no longer using the bases, although they were at Pentagon disposal in an emergency.
Islamabad has repeatedly called on the US to halt drone attacks on Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The strikes have caused hundreds of civilian casualties and have fuelled anti-American sentiment.
The latest drone strike on Monday killed 32 people in the tribal agency of Kurram. The attack was the fourth since President Barack Obama took office in January.
Both Pakistan and the US have repeatedly denied that Washington or its allies are conducting covert military operations inside Pakistani territory.